Dalits and Tribals are at the receiving end in the post-Globalization scenario

The discussion and debate on the Dal Scam, Mining Scam, NREGS Scam and all the controversial industrial projects including Posco in Jagatsinghpur and Vedanta in Niyamgiri, the ethnic-communal violence in Kandhamal along with the micro-finance institution (MFI) loans is not confined to within the state of Odisha only. These controversial issues of Odisha have become a referral point in all the debates and discussions in South India. The political and social activists of South India during their discussions and debates with regard to their respective states on the current issues are referring the various issues of Odisha as glaring examples of atrocities on the Dalits, Tribals, women and the marginalized class.

Of courses, all the states – Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala - too have similar problems. But, the problems related to the land, micro-finance loans and the Dalit-Tribal conflict are more acute. They quote the major cases of Odisha during the discussions to drive a point that all should take lessons from the issues of the poor state because they consider the cases of Odisha are the glaring examples of the anti-people policies and bad governance of the state government. And, the civil society and the political activists of South India consider that the people of all these four states should be vigilant of this kind of anti-people trends of the government and other agencies in their respective states which directly impacts the deprived section.

During the two-day South India meet on Dalits, Adivasis, Women and the marginalized classes held early March at Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, the participants were of the opinion that the industrialization process and mining in South India and elsewhere has made the life of the dalits , tribals, women and the marginalized classes miserable. And, all should collectively fight the government's anti-people policies of globalization and liberalisation.

They have cities the police firing early this month in Srikakulam district, Andhra Pradesh in which three people protesting the displacement were killed. The state government is acquiring land for setting up a power plant in the district. The government in all the Southern states want to acquire land for the industrial projects which does not benefit the poor tribals, dalits, women and the marginalized classes of the region.

Speaker after speaker cited the examples of Odisha saying that the cases of Odisha are the best examples where the poor tribals, dalits, women and the marginalized classes are suffering due to the anti-people policies of the government.

The participants were of the view that the government has not followed the Forest Rights Act (FRA), Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act and other rules and regulations in the Polavaram Dam project area in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. The project will displace several hundred tribals and the marginalized section in both the neibouring states.

Apart from the rapid industrialization, the participants were critical of the micro-finance companies. The MFIs are charging very high interest rates and they are harassing the borrowers in all the four Southern states. The situation is bad in Andhra Pradesh and it is worst in Odisha. Around 22 people have committed suicides in Andhra Pradesh in the year 2010 while the number is very high in Odisha. As per the state government records, 235 committed suicides in 2007, 260 in 2008 and 65 till date in the current financial year. The majority of the farmers in Odisha have committed suicide due to their failure to repay the loans to MFIs.

Kandhamal violence is another referral point with regard to the growing Dalit and Tribal conflict in some areas of South India. Two of the main reasons for the conflict in Kandhamal is the land and fake caste certificate and the same is the case in all other areas of South also. Both the issues should be resolved to bring a unity among the two weaker sections.

They were of the view that the upper castes instigate both the groups of the deprived section to fight with each other to take advantage out of that. They were also critical of the conversion and re-conversion activities of the Christian and Hindu organizations. The Dalits and Tribals continue to suffer in Christianity in all the four states, like in Odisha, even after conversion.

The two-day meeting concluded with a note that the Dalits and Tribals should be educated and trained about the proper use of SC & ST Prevention of Atrocities Act against those who want to take away their land and dupe them with the MFI loans. They along with the women and the marginalized sections should be mobilized for a united action to put pressure on the governments not to follow anti-people policies. The governments should stop illegal acquisition of the land and take stringent action against the MFI operators.

They advocated that the decision making process should not be Verticial where a few on the top take a decision and impose the same on all others below. Instead, it should be Horizontal where the opinion of all the stakeholders should be considered before taking a decision on any issue concerning the people of the state. Then only, the interest of the Dalits, tribals, women and marginalized classes will be safeguarded.

By Sai Prasan the writer is a member, Janata Vikas Manch. Please send your comments and suggestions at [email protected]

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Articles by R L Francis